SEATTLE – Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAOK) acquired Seattle-based machine learning and artificial intelligence startup, Turi. The merge went down for $200 million, and it highlights Apple’s push for AI technology.
Turi’s staff will remain in their headquarters in Seattle, a city where Apple has been slowly building up its presence. The team will take the lead on the Siri project and further increase Apple’s expertise in artificial intelligence, machine learning processes, and data science.
GeekWire magazine first reported the purchase, and an Apple spokesman confirmed the purchase. He said the Apple buys small companies all the time, but that they liked to keep things under the radar.
— Prateek Joshi (@PrateekJ16) August 7, 2016
Siri will benefit from Turi’s expertise in AI and machine learning processes
Turi, formerly known Dato Graph Lab, was founded by Carlos Guestrin and his wife, Emily Fox, in 2009. The company specialized in scalable machine-learning processes and made all the progress open source.
The organization also offered recommendation engines, fraud detection programs, customer analysis, patterns and so on. Turi has one of the few infrastructures that can provide this kind of technology in the cloud for hundreds of millions of users at the time. Apparently, Apple is going to use the algorithms developed by Turi to make Siri more intelligent and independent.
As of now, Google dominates the AI market. The company has been developing software that can learn to play games and correct grammar. Recently, they launched to APIs that can learn how to understand human language.
On the other side, Apple has lost a lot of ground in this area. Siri was the first virtual assistant to see the market in 2011, but nowadays, Google’s S Voice and Cortana are displacing Apple’s assistant from the number one stop.
Apple has been having problems with its virtual assistant project
Apple has acquired 15 Seattle-based companies developing artificial intelligence technologies over the year. Some of those include Perceptio and VocallQ, both similar startups to Turi, LearnSprout that develops educational projects, Flyby Media which specializes in spatial perception, and LegbaCore, a small company offering firmware security.
It seems the company wants to recover the privileged position Siri once had in the market. Back in 2011, the program was a pioneer and gained immense popularity, but the AI sector grew, and Apple was left behind by companies like Google and Microsoft.
Apple is famous for its secrecy and independence, but that is precisely what is affecting in such a negative way its AI efforts. Google, for example, dominates the industry, and most of its research is open source. That seems to be the secret, let experts from around the world contribute creating better technology.
However, the North American company isolated itself in this regard which handicaps its ability to research new technology. As a result, a group of developers and engineers left the Siri project early 2016.
Turi’s impact on Siri will depend on the company’s direction. In contrast with its previous policies, Apple doesn’t like to share its products, and it rarely accepts to collaborate with other developing teams.
Users that benefited from Turi’s open source services are already facing the consequences of the merger. The company announced its services were going to be offline, and it is unclear when, or if, they are going to be available again anytime soon.
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